The Anti-Profiling Movement Is Killing Black Pedestrians
From time to time, the media tell the truth about issues that have a racial edge, usually by accident. Such was the case in February of this year, when a local TV news crew visited a largely black St. Louis neighborhood to follow up on a hit-and-run incident.
A speeding car had struck two ten-year-old boys and kept on going. Local people were outraged. School principal Stella Erondu told the reporter, "It's just like the wild, wild west. Anyone can do whatever, drive however they want on these streets." Other neighbors echoed her comments.
The reporter on the scene had no reason to doubt the neighbors. While he was there monitoring the intersection in question, an estimated 50 percent of the drivers blew right through the stop sign.
Back at the studio, the news anchor expressed shock at the "blatant disregard for children, the laws, everything in this neighborhood." He called the situation "unbelievable." It may have been unbelievable in the anchor's neighborhood, but in urban St. Louis, reckless driving is something of a norm.
If these local news people were willing to shed some light on a serious problem, their betters at the Washington Post prefer to keep their readers in the dark. A recent Post article that focused on St. Louis led with the perfectly useless headline "Pedestrian deaths soar nationally as SUV use increases."
The reporter made the case that pedestrian deaths nationwide were up 46 percent from 2009 and attributed the increase to there being more SUVs on the road. This correlation explained close to nothing. From 2006 to 2013, as SUVs increased in number, pedestrian deaths declined, as did overall auto fatalities, the latter by 25 percent.
Pedestrian fatalities did not start spiking until 2015. In that year, they increased 9 percent from the prior year. In 2016, they increased 12 percent over the total in 2015. The 2017 numbers were almost identical to those of 2016.
As it happens, pedestrian fatalities track closely with homicides. This may not be a coincidence. From 2006 to 2014, homicides nationwide declined steadily save for a minor blip in 2012. This trend resulted in 3,000 fewer murders in 2014 than in 2006.
After August 2014, the trend abruptly reversed itself. In 2015, murders rose at their fastest pace in a quarter-century. In 2016, America experienced 17,250 murders, 3,086 more than in 2014. In sum, from 2014 to 2016, homicides increased 21 percent, and pedestrian traffic deaths increased 22 percent.
There appears to have been a precipitating event, certainly for homicides. In August 2014, Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. A furor ensued, particularly in the St. Louis area, where Ferguson is located. The police pulled back to protect themselves from physical harm and legal jeopardy, and the thugs moved in to fill the void left behind.
Not surprisingly, the so-called "Ferguson effect" has had its most dramatic impact on Missouri. In 2013, there were 120 murders in St. Louis. In 2015, post-Ferguson, there were 188. In 2017, there were 205, a 71-percent increase from 2013. Kansas City went from 76 homicides in 2014 to 149 in 2017, a 96-percent increase.
The Ferguson effect appears to have influenced driving habits as well, especially after the release of Attorney General Eric Holder's "scathing" March 2015 report. Unable to nail Wilson for the shooting, Holder called out the whole Ferguson Police Department for its "implicit and explicit racism."
Holder cited as evidence the fact that blacks accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops in a city that was 67 percent black. Local and national media latched on to this story and did not limit their criticism to Ferguson. Cops throughout the state, if not the nation, got the message.
Years earlier, New Jersey trooper union vice president Dave Jones spoke to the effect of these a priori condemnations on the police psyche. "There's a tremendous demoralizing effect of being guilty until proven innocent," said Jones after his fellow troopers came under scrutiny from the Clinton Justice Department. "Anyone you interact with can claim you've made a race-based stop, and you spend years defending yourself."
The St. Louis numbers seem to confirm Jones's concern. In 2015, as homicides were soaring in the city, so were pedestrian deaths. They increased from 5 to 21 in just one year and have eased only a little in the years since. Just as with homicides, blacks are more likely to be the victims of a fatal pedestrian encounter than are members of other races. Nationwide, they are 87 percent more likely to be killed in pedestrian accidents than whites.
The release early this month of the annual report on vehicle stops by the Missouri attorney general's office will only make life more dangerous for black pedestrians. The AP's Jim Salter hit all the predictably false notes in his write up on the report.
"Nearly four years after protests in Ferguson raised concerns about racial profiling of blacks in Missouri," Salter wrote, "a report from the state attorney general shows that African-American drivers are 85 percent more likely to be pulled over than whites – the highest percentage in the 18 years the state has compiled data."
Salter talked about the "disparity index" with a willfully ignorant NAACP rep straight out of central casting. "Quite frankly, it's really deplorable," said John Gaskin of St. Louis. "It's why we've ended up in a situation where people are talking about travel advisories and African-American groups are less likely to come and do business in our state."
A look at the actual report, however, suggests that the perceived disparity is much more likely to be a result of black driving habits than police biases. Yes, statistically, blacks were 85 percent more likely to be stopped than whites.
What the media did not report, however, is that blacks were 129 percent more likely to be stopped than Hispanics, 224 percent more likely to be stopped than Asians, and 400 percent more likely to be stopped than American Indians.
The possibility that different ethnic groups have, in general, different driving habits should not have come as news to those paid to report the news. In 2002, the New Jersey attorney general commissioned a study to determine driving habits by race. The study found that 25 percent of those driving 15 or more miles above the speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike were black despite the fact that they made up only 16 percent of the drivers. The disparity was even higher at higher speeds.
As Heather Mac Donald reported in a much discussed City Journal article, "[b]lack drivers speed twice as much as white drivers, and speed at reckless levels even more." In fact, blacks were stopped less by troopers than their driving habits might have predicted.
The New Jersey study was the most authoritative one ever done on the subject. The study should have put an end to the incendiary articles that scorch America's police departments every time a new traffic stop report is released, but it obviously has not.
Instead, the media ask their audiences to ignore all inconvenient statistics, all logic about police motives, and even the fatal consequences to black pedestrians for no better reason than to perpetuate the myth that law enforcement practices are "deplorable." Cops have heard that word before, and that is one reason why Donald Trump is president.